Friday, 31 December 2010

The International

I am convinced that I have written already about the International, a vehicle for Clive Owen, who performs as an Interpol agent with an Assistant District Attorney who want to bring justice to one of the world’s most powerful banks whose activities including money laundering, illegal arms trading and terrorism promotion as part of interfering with the independence of nations in order to promote and further its business and profitability.. In Italy they witness the assassination of a candidate for the Presidency, an arms manufacturer who refused to sell to the corporation. Through a local corrupt police the assassin is identified as someone local instead of a specialist hitman employed by the company on several operations in the past, However by persistence, some luck and some skill the individual is identified as based in New York which is fortunate as the two are ordered by their superiors to return home as the case is official close by the Italian Police.

The assassin us traced to a meeting at the Guggenheim museum which is a trap to end his contract and result in a great shoot out with modern multifiring weapons. Hr helps Owen to survive although dies without proving useful evidence. The arms manufacturer politician was killed in the belief that it would be possible to deal with his sons. This is a major mistake which will lead to the bringing down to the corrupt bank leadership, at least for a time. The action moves to Istanbul where the company needs an important deal where Owen is about to take the law into in own hands and kill the Banks Chief Executive. Her is spared as another assassin is successful, employed by the sons avenging the death of their father. However this is but the closing of one chapter, It does nit bring down the bank, suggesting either a sequel or more likely the reality that once these organisations are established with their network fused with crime all over the world they are difficult to dismantle whatever happens to individuals in the control and leadership level. This we have seen with he UK banks and those in states and elsewhere in Europe. When the entire system is under threat while individuals may be purged the basic structure and approach is supported reinforced and encouraged to flourish

A Serious Man and the Cohen Brothers

The Coen brothers Joel and Nathan have created some interesting challenging, unique and sometimes funny works. A serious man is not funny. Well it depends on the individual sense of humour.

A polish Jew tells his wife that eh has been helped home by Reb Groshkover who he has invited in for the evening soup (stew), His wife, Dora, objects, as the man is dead. The man is therefore a ghost or some form of living dead. When he arrives the wife plunges and icepick in the chest of visitor.

Half century later we are in the USA Minnesota and the wife of Professor of Physics announces she wants a divorce so she can marry a widower neighbour.. She suggests it would be appropriate he moves out into a motel which he agrees.

Living in the family home is their son who owes money to a Hebrew classmate for the marijuana he has provided and he places the note in a transistor radio with ear piece which he takes to school and is then confiscated by the head teacher. His sister is obsessed with doing her hair and his uncle spends his time filling a notebook with a complex scientific theory which he claims will fuse together all natural laws. This we have a typical Cohen collection of human beings in contrast to Hollywood and media family portrayals.

The husband faces a faculty decision on whether his tenure is confirmed and this put in jeopardy following his decision to appropriate grade a Korean student who first leaves a substantial financial gift which is then denied when confronted by the Professor and they in turn threaten defamation and make complaint.

Things quickly go from bad to worse. He finds that his wife having persuaded him to leave the home and go into a motel, empties his bank accounts. His brother is then arrested for solicitation.

Our hero turns to his religion and seeks an audience with the senior rabbi who refuses contact with the outside world except to approve the bar Mitzvah which his son is due to take. The others he consult behave in negative, incomprehensible ways and are of no help. Then the situation appears to change. He and his wife’s lover are involved in car accidents at the same time but in different places. The lover dies and our hero pays for the funeral at the insistence of his wife. This is man unable to control any aspect of his destiny. The Bar Mitzvah appears to go well although the hero and the rest are unaware that the son has coped by taking cannabis. He gains entry to the senior rabbi who passes over the transistor radio with the missing note appearing to be confusing the son with his father. White at home he goes on the roof to sort out the TV aerial and sees a neighbour sunbathing in her yard naked. He begins a relationship with her. He is given the impression his job is safe. The boy’s teacher struggles to open the school shelter’s door as a cyclone approaches Then the hero receives a telephone call from his doctor after the result of an x ray have been checked.

The film is about he deception of appearances and the Cohen’s The last film note is that No Jews were harmed in the making of the film! You either love them or hate them.

Deal

Deal, with Burt Reynolds is a film which will only appeal to Gamblers. A young man opts out of he life planned for him by his parents because he has a flair for poker, a flair which is spotted by Burt Reynolds a man who comes close to winning the world championship and who has withdrawn from activity in order to save his marriage. At first his role is to train the young man to achieve the success which eluded him but soon the bug bites back and the two men find themselves in close completion in the world Championship at Las Vegas. The film provides the opportunity for various known Poker players and Poker commentators to come to the big screen. There are times when the Sky TV channels appear to be covering Poker tournaments or advertising online and TV games for the amateur to lose money. I cannot now remember if I dozed off or was distracted and therefore missed how the film ends. Did I care then? Yes although a minor irritation. Do I care now.? No but I may catch the ending sometime as it continues to be shown.

Inkheart

For the second night in succession I have remained awake, eaten a little and worked or played games. I will go to bed soon and try and sleep. Last night I stayed awake in bed because the mind was racing following events the previous day where tonight I found it difficult to get comfortable with a blocked nose. Even the common head cold frightens me a little, sometimes a lot. I an defrosting a large chicken, some pigs in blankets and special almond and apricot stuffing balls. I shall also roast the ham and enjoy a small Christmas pudding with hot custard as well as drink a whole bottle of Asti. There will be cold cuts with salad and perhaps a curry from the chicken. As soon as the cold cough has departed I will attend to losing weight with renewed determination.

Inkheart is described as a young adult fantasy which attracted my attention during December. It is first book of a trilogy made into a film in 2008 with a major cast which includes Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren and Andy Serkis. This is a wonderful story about the power of the word and the creative imagination and concerns the 12 year old daughter, Meggie, of a man who discovers that he can make elements of any story he reads out loud to others come to life. It is important to understand that while the book tells the adventure from her perspective the film tends to switch between the perspective of the different characters which at times I did find hard to follow. It is important to pay close attention and reminds of those video adventure games where visual acuity is important together with a knowledge of the story upon which the game is based. Similar to the Harry Potter films which follow the books in great detail the film is aimed at those who have ready the original book, published in German but with an English translation.

The danger of her father’s ability as he discovers is that he appears to have read his wife into the story as she disappears, bring into reality a juggling fire eater from a travelling circus in the book called Dustfinger.

Meggie spends years searching for another copy of the book unaware that these have been bought up by another of the Inkheart characters called Capricorn played by Andy Serkis. He is a nasty criminal rogue he we learn lives in a castle dominated village which he has created in mountains of Italy. Her father is a book repairer which enables him to visit public and private collections and on one visit he finds a copy and Dustfinger who wants to be returned into the story and his wife unaware that he dies at the end of the book.

Without knowing the location of his wife the father refuses and goes to see his wife’s great aunt, Helen Mirren, who lives with her great book collection blaming Mortimer for the loss of his wife. They are followed their by Dustfinger who has reported the existence of Mortimer to Capricorn who promises to arrange for the juggler to be return to fiction.

Capricorn already has a reader, but the man has a stutter so the creatures are deformed and these include


He and his daughter then sped years on a pilgrimage trying to find another copy of the book to reverse the position. Mortimer is a repairer of books by trade and this provides the opportunities to inspect private as well as public libraries including the one held by the great aunt of his wife played by Helen Mirren and who lives in Italy. He makes the journey after being called into a bookstore and finding a copy of the book and then encountering Dustfinger who wants to be immediately read back into the story without first locating the whereabouts of the missing wife. Because of his refusal to act Dustfinger has alerted another characters who were released from the story and Capricorn played by Andy Serkis, and who at his isolated Castle has created a community of other characters including the Hound from the Baskervilles, the flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz and the ticking crocodile from Peter Pan, together with a vicious Minotaur

The reader and the great aunt and Meggie are captured by Capricorn’s agents and taken to the Castle after the great private library is destroyed Mortimer is required to read for Capricorn to protect his daughter and this brings into the story a new and important character from Ali Baba who releases unlimited treasure. Mortimer has disclosed his power to his daughter and the great aunt and that he believes he unintentionally placed his wife in the book hence his search for another copy. The story becomes increasingly complicated, at least I found it so.

Unbeknown to either Mortimer or Capricorn the wife is not in the book but a mute artistic kitchen helper but she is discovered by Dustfinger who keeps the knowledge secret. The plan is devised to break out of the Castle and go in search of the author of the book in the hope he has a copy. The break out involves creating the cyclone from the Wizard of Oz and which also brings Toto the into the story as a friend for Meggie.

After locating the author played by Jim Broadbent, and finding he has a handwritten manuscript, a plan is devised to return to the Castle community and read a new version of the tale with a different ending as Capricorn is after bringing into reality the super monster which threatens mankind, similar to the monster of Outlander. Meggie discovers she also has the power and this in turn becomes known to Capricorn who also finds that her mother is working for him and blackmails the girl to read as he wishes. Fortunately they are able to alter the story, prevent the monster coming into reality also send back all the characters into their original stories. This enables Dustfinger to return and have a happy ending with his wife, but the Ali Baba character decides to stay with Mortimer and Meggie with whom he has struck up a relationship, suggesting the direction of the second volume. In attempting to simplify what is a fast moving and complex story I have done a disservice where the great aunt also has a ongoing role as does Mr Broadbent. It is he kind of film that one can enjoy better if you have read the book or watches attentively for a second time.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Me and Orson Wells

I had wanted to go and see Me and Orson Welles in theatre although never a great Orson Wells fan in the way of other actors of the same generation although I do accept that Citizen Kane is a great film and always enjoy his appearance in the Third Man. Anyway this films is a rites of passage film in which Christian McKay who plays Wells shows 17 year old Richard Samuels the facts of life. Richard comes to New York to study and by good fortune which stretches belief gets a part in a low budget, save the off Broadway theatre production of Julius Caesar. The larger than life actor playing actor is having an extra marital affair with his leading lady, something which shocks the well brought up innocent 17 year old. He is taken under the wind of the older (Mrs Robinson) production assistant.

The night before curtain up Welles insists the cast go off in pairs to enjoy the night, draw at random, although the 17 year old fixes it to go off with the production assistant and they spend the night together. He falls in love and despite being told the reality the ambitious get to Hollywood production assistant then sleeps with Wells which causes the 17 year old to give Wells a piece of his mind. Wells keeps the lad in the play which is a great success, but only until he can arrange a replacement. The young man learns his lesson.

At the start of the film he meets a young ambitious rather plain looking young woman in music store who is setting out to become a writer. They meet up again just after he has got the part and she is feeling low about her lack of success. He offers to pass one of stories through a connection gained at the theatre. They meet for a third time at the end of film after her story is accepted and she is on the way to success.

The film was made in England, including the Isle of Man. Pinewood studios and Crystal Palace. The film had a budget of $25million and is reported to have made less that $3m yet received good media reactions as a film about putting on a play. It appears that the portrayal of Wells was a good one as the part gained a Best support actor BAFTA nomination. I was pleased to have got the film out of my system and that I had not taken the time and expense to view in theatre.

The Long Goodbye

I thought I had seen The Long Goodbye before, a 1953 Raymond Chandler Philip Marlow Story with a young Elliott Gould in the role of this 1973 made film. It was only when reading the background that I remembered the other film was the Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall and hen remade with Robert Mitcham. No one has been able to better the Bogart Philip Marlow or the Bogart anything and Elliott has played too many roles as Elliott Gould to be anything other than Elliott Gould so this is in fact an Elliott Gould detective film and where I am on the side of the police who find him insufferable and unhelpful , This arises because I am inclined to have a favourable view of the British Police Detective in general and forget that the USA film portrayal of their police as being as best lacking any kind of professionalism and at worst prejudiced and corrupt.

The story begins with Marlow brought in for questioning after the discovery of the murder of the wife of a long standing friend who contacted Marlowe on the night of the murder, met him in an anxious and afraid state and admitted he had a row with his wife. The friend is then found dead while Marlow is in custody, and apparent suicide and therefore the police in their stock fashion decided to close the case. Marlow had in fact taken the friend from Los Angeles to border with Mexico at Tijuana.

Marlow returns to his day job and accepts a request to locate the alcoholic writer husband of the stock platinum blonde curvaceous female who feature in the Chandler writings. His first call is the detox clinic previously used where he is told lies only to find that the writer is there, wanting to break out and appears to be held against his will for non payment of previous fees. Marlow then learns that the writer and his wife knew his dead friend and the writer’s wife reinforces Marlowe’s view that someone else killed the wife and the suicide verdict is questionable.

Marlowe is then taken temporary prisoner by a vicious gangster so dangerous that he physically hurts his mistress to demonstrate that, her I love, You I don’t even like, thus making the point as directly and strongly as he can that he wants the third of a million dollars owed him by the suicide dead friend. He then finds the gangster relationship with the writer and his wife.

However before the significance of this is explained Marlow learns that the writer as having an affair with the wife of his dead friend and that the writer’s wife, who appears to have set her cap at Marlow, believed that her husband was capable of killing the woman and who then appears to take his own life drowning in the sea. The police do not believe this story saying that he alibi has been checked and confirmed. They are right you see.

Marlowe returns to Mexico where he discovers that his friend is alive and has bribed official over his suicide death story. He admits that he killed his wife because of an affair with the wife of the writer, and not the other way around. So the police were right about this too. Worse has followed. The writer’s wife admits she was holding the money for her lover and returns it to the vicious criminal who lets Marlow go. He then passes the woman on her way to her lover in Mexico, having shot him dead for the killing betrayal and the hassle Marlowe has experienced. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the vicious gangster and Stirling Hayden the writer (Ernest Hemingway style). Critics generally shared my view that Altman and Gould appear half heartened in their realization of Chandler’s Marlowe

Toast

Toast is made for TV 90 minute film of the published autobiography of food critic and writer Nigel Slater, and award winning journalist with the Observer Newspaper. At the close of the film he leaves home, goes to London and obtains a job in the kitchen of the Savoy Hotel. Toast is in fact the story of a childhood and adolescence rather than the blow by blow rise of a cook into writer about food. I am not sure if it is the intention of the director but Slater does not fare well in the story. He is brought up in Wolverhampton with an insensitive lump of a father played by Nigel Stott and an insipid and neurotic mother who suffers from severe asthma and who dies when he is only nine years of age. His mother has an aversion to cooking and relies on tins, which she also gets wrong and then relies on making Toast to satisfy the appetite, hence the title of the original autobiography and film. Slater the child is revealed as wanting to change the situation and tries to introduce the family to Spaghetti Bolognaise.

After the death father commences a relationship with the a cleaning lady, more attractive, sexy and a good cook, played by Helena Bonham Carter and whose tour de force is a Lemon Meringue pie which according to Slater his step mother refused to divulge the recipe so he spent years trying to work out her success and when he achieves this his father rejects because it is produced at the wrong time.

What I do not understand from the film and obviously the book may make the situation more clear is why Nigel took against his step mother so badly given that the relationship with his mother was not a great one. The answer could be what I suspect is made more fundamental in the book but skated over in the film, the relationship between food and sex and his development as a homosexual. The film suggests hat during his childhood his birth mother and father had a comfortable but sexually unadventurous relationship while that with the step mother was of a different order and there is the hint of the step mother turning to adolescent 15 year old for comfort when her husband suddenly dies. What the film also fails to mention is that Nigel has two older brothers.

I suspect interest and enjoyment in the film rests on the extent to which the audience comprised those who had read his column, or used his books or become a fan through his TV work. I must confess not to have known anything about him and therefore had none of the usual curiosity about his background which I do have with those whose work I appreciate.

Outlander

I need another film catch up. In fact I need a general catch up with a house clean and tidy, a financial clean and tidy and a lifestyle clean and tidy. For the past three years I have undertaken mini trips on average once a month because of the £9 a night room offer by Travel Lodge. As his year progressed the arrangements for the offers changed and on the last occasion I failed to gain accommodation for an end of the year London trip.

Today I returned from an early morning swim, visit to Morrison’s and then Staples, returning via South Shields town centre to pick up a pocket diary at the pound shop only to switch on the computer, check the email and find that Travel Lodge were holding what is reported to be their last ever £9 sale with accommodation available for the whole year. This posed a dilemma because as reported in the last writing I need to reign in expenditure, but equally I did not want a situation where I am unable to make trips later because of having to pay the full price when the opportunity now arose. In the event there were few £9 rooms available for consecutive days and I had to settle to three trips of three nights with only two rooms at £9 and the rest at £19, although this also included a Saturday. I will have another look in a moment to see what is still on offer.

The first film update is Outlander which someone has described as cross between the Highlander series and Braveheart. The film cost nearly $50 million to make and is reported to have taken less than a seventh of this at the box office. I can understand why although given other offering of the same ilk it deserved better. The story is of a warrior soldier in an advanced planet in 709 AD, the time of he Viking domination of Northern and central Europe. The planet is attacked by a specie of fiery devilish flesh eating monsters. Alien and Monster, that seems to be the title for another film attack each other’s worlds and on returning to his home world the warrior soldier finds that his wife and child have been killed and he goes off seeking revenge only to crash on earth bring a stowaway family of monster with him. These set about terrorising the Viking community which captures the warrior after the space ship crashes into the sea. The Warrior gains the confidence of the local king played by John Hurt, the King’s adventuring daughter, his previously chief warrior and a young orphan lad who takes a shine for new arrival. There is an overlong and at times improbable doing battle with the monsters during which the King and his chief warrior are killed, the daughter is captured alive, the reason for this in inexplicable so there is not attempt to do so, and she is rescued. The monsters are slain as a result of creating a special sword from the metal of the space craft. The film ends as the visiting warrior turns off his distress beacon and settles down to become the king, marry the former King’s daughter with the adopted orphan and fires the lighted arrow to set of the sailing pyre carrying the bodies of the old king and his chief warrior.

The director of the film, Howard McCain wrote the original published story two decades before inspired by a rebuilt Viking ship on he cover of Archaeology Magazine and the teals of Beowulf and such remained his enthusiasm that he created a replica village and ship for the film set. The creature has two forms, a prehistoric beast which becomes a translucent fiery dragon. At two hours the film could have been shortened without altering is impact.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Flash of Genius

By now any regular readers will know that I applaud anyone who pursues their dreams as long as in doing so they do not knowingly harm others. This is not always easy because the singled minded individual will. however unintentionally, adversely affect parents and other family members, partners and children, unless they are successful in their endeavours. The definition of success is also variable. Someone my go off and climb mountains but in doing bring tension to those waiting to know if their child or partner will return often such endeavours require considerable financial as well as emotional support.

The Flash of Genius is the name of a film but also a doctrine where for ten years the Courts in the USA judged the protection of patents. The film concerns Robert Kearns who successfully fought a battle against the Ford Motor Company to obtain financial recognition for his device, the variable screen wiper.

Robert Kearns was a remarkable man in every sense who successfully studied engineering at Universities in the USA and became a teacher. He was a talented violinist and during the Second World War he was a member of the Office of Strategic Services which became the CIA.

He was nearly blind in one eye, caused on his wedding night when a released champagne cork hit the eye and he suffered difficulties throughout his life as a consequence. Driving with his family in the rain he found the constant back and forth of the screen wipers irritating and his flash of genius was to work out a mechanism which enabled the wipers to operate intermittently. He used this story in court to illustrate his claim for originality. He developed a prototype in the basement of his home where he lived with his wife and then six children.

The device was shown to the Ford Motor Company who agreed to incorporate the mechanism into a new model with Kearns and his partner setting up a manufacturing company to produce the wiper mechanism directly. The deal went as far as submitting a sample unit and pricing information but then silence. He then discovered that the same device was being used in a new model without any reference to him.

The film suggests that he became so distraught about what happened that he required psychiatric help arranged officially by his family. He comes home a broken man but decides to study the legal position and commences action against the company. He is then given legal help and Ford agrees to make a settlement of $30 million which would have set himself and his family up for life, given that other companies wishing to use the device would be required to make payments. He rejected the offer because of the requirement for the out of court settlement to agree on the basis that Ford did not admit liability, which is the usual way civil compensation claims are settled on both sides of the Atlantic.

For Kearns being cheated and unfair commercial practice became the fundamental issue rather than the money and according to the film he decided to continue on his own. Although he maintained contact with his children who came to support him in the preparation of the case and in attending the eventual court hearings, his wife commenced to live life separate from him and divorced.

He won the legal battle although the Court ruled that the infringement had not been intentional with an award of only $10 million on the basis of no appeal regarding the amount. He later successfully won a case against the Chrysler Corporation for $18.7 million with interest but Chrysler appealed until the Supreme Court rejected the request and he received $30 million but out of which he met $10 million of the legal costs.

To place his D I Y legal success in perspective, he commenced the project development in 1966 and the formal legal action in 1978 and 1982 but the trial did not take place until 1990 with the Chrysler initial decision in 1990 and a further five years before settlement. Thus the ordeal for himself and his family took two decades. He failed in cases against General Motors, Mercedes and Japanese companies because of missed deadlines. The film does bring out the basis for the defence of the auto industry in that the device does not use new components. Kearns counteracted this by using the example of a well known book when on the first and subsequent pages all the words are familiar and already contained in the dictionary. The success of the work regarded as a literary masterpiece is in how the author places the words and similarly the argument that while he used existing mechanical and electrical components it is how they are arranged that produces the new type of wiper which he had properly and effectively patented before being used by the motor vehicle manufacturing companies. He died in 2005 from a form of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 75 having served on a number of charities including the board of the Veterans in the Office of Strategic Services

I agree with one reviewer, Stephen Holden of the New York Times that the film lacked greatness although it contains the mixture of idealism, obsession and paranoia because it somehow misses out in communication the emotional and psychological impact of his quest on him and his family. On reflection this is perhaps unfair because as another reviewer mentions Peter Hartlub in the San Francisco Chronicle, the film does use 2 hours to communicate the struggle and failure before the final moments of success of a kind. I thought this was a good construction in the sense of posing the question was it really worth it? However this is not general entertainment and will appeal only to those like me who have gone through a similar experience. It is also noteworthy that although the film uses the legal doctrine a Flash of Genius, this was altered in 1952 before Kearns commenced his law suits and while he used what happened when driving the car in the rain to indicate the first flash of genius, he subsequently confirmed that the it was several years of a trial and error research before the device was perfected.

Step Brothers and St Trinian Gold

The Saturday before Christmas 2010, the 18th of December was a monumental failure to achieve objectives set for the day. I did rise early and swim 54 length, spending little time reading the paper in the hotel lounge, full edition but I could not settle after reading how bad the weather had again become over much of the British Isles. I realised that it was increasingly unlikely I would be able to get away for Christmas, or if I did set off I could face a horrendous journey which I would not be able to cope with.

At lunchtime I enjoyed the Sunderland home game against Bolton on Sky, especially when the lead was taken. There were several opportunities to extend this but the failure to do so meant that Bolton then had several opportunities to equalize but players on both side miskicked or met determined defences. Because of a dramatic snow fall in many parts of the country a number of football matches were called off to prevent fans having to travel in the atrocious road conditions. Because of this Sunderland rose to sixth in the table with their win and on equal points with Spurs who have a game in hand

I watched a remake of the film Stagecoach which I enjoyed and then in the evening enjoyed the final two sessions of Strictly Come Dancing in which the three deserving couples were reduced to two after the first hour session when they each danced twice Pamela Stevenson has gained many admirers as the dancing grandmother, professional clinical psychologist aged 61 who lost two dress sizes during the contest and found herself again, as she admitted in terms of enjoying public performance and recognition. She disappointed with the speciality dance concentrating on a mixture of the best dance forms unlike the other two couple who went in for spectacular gymnastics and rightly obtained the public support to contest the second and final session of two dances, one a repeat of what they regarded as their best and the fourth of the evening a routine they had not performed before. Not that given her age and frame Pamela could do anything else. She appeared to find the coming third difficult and did not reappear during the final session or finale. The winner was justifiable the most beautiful and athletic performer although even she had several technical hitches which prevented top notch marks. The following information on the inner comes from the Official Strictly site

At the age of 7, Kara Tointon started to go to speech and drama lessons at school. She did LAMDA exams and entered local music festivals doing poetry recitals. Her first acting experience was playing the part of Brigitta in The Sound of Music at the Cliffs Pavilion in Essex for the local amateur dramatic society. Her first paid job was in the panto Snow White at the age of 11 - she was one of the child dancers. Her first TV appearance was in EastEnders in 1994 as an extra, playing Sonia's school friend. In 2000 after leaving school, she won a part in the Channel 4 drama Teachers. It was this job that convinced Kara that she should make acting her full-time career. In 2002, Kara appeared in Dinotopia, followed in 2004 by a role in Mile High. She then joined the cast of Dream Team as Gina Moliano, a role she played until 2005. Almost as soon as she left Dream Team it was announced she would be joining EastEnders as Dawn Swann, the sister of Mickey Miller (Joe Swash). During her four years on EastEnders, Kara's character conned the residents of Albert Square into paying for breast implants, was kidnapped and held hostage by her lover who planned to give her an enforced caesarean, had a brief affair with Phil Mitchell, and was involved in a long-running 'will-they-won't-they' plotline with Garry Hobbs (played by last year's Strictly contestant Ricky Groves). Kara left EastEnders in 2009, saying she would love to return one day. In 2008, Kara took part in the Sport Relief version of Strictly, partnering Mark Ramprakash, and won. Kara was born in Basildon in Essex. Her younger sister Hannah is also an actress and has appeared in Hollyoaks. She dated James Bourne from the band Busted from the age of 15 until she won her role on EastEnders. She briefly dated James Alexandrou (Martin Fowler) before going out with Joe Swash (Mickey Miller) in 2008 just before he took part in I'm A Celebrity. They split in May 2010, and Kara is currently single.
If she wasn't an actress, Kara says she would have gone to Art College instead. She's 27 years old and is 5' 5" tall. As well as winning the Sexiest Actress gong at the National Soap Awards in 2008, Kara was also nominated for 'Most Popular Actress' at the National Television Awards in 2007. She has appeared in adverts for McDonalds and Diamond, and in 2009 she was unveiled as the face of Michelle for George underwear at Asda. Kara suffers from dyslexia and says she has a reading age of about 12, which causes her problems memorising lines for last-minute auditions. She has made a documentary about the subject for BBC Three, which will be shown in mid-November.

Her professional dance partner was Artem Chigvintsev of Russian birth but now regards Los Angeles as his home base although he has trained, competed and performed all over the world. He has openly cried at their success and appears to worship Karia as she him which explains the magical intensity and fusion of their dancing. She is quite extraordinary.

I enjoyed my food, a bacon roll, soup with a little salad at lunch and some grapes, Christmas cake and cheese mid afternoon followed by two lamb chops with the rest of the salad and grapes later. A glass of whisky to insulate against the chill despite having the heating on all day.

So why the discontent and inability to sleep? I have not completed letters to accompany the remaining Christmas card and I will not be able to go swimming in the morning from tiredness or late waking. There were also feelings of failure, frustration, sadness, guilt to painful and private to recount, I must do much better but time is running out and I am unable alone to break out of the cycle I am locked into to make the kind of difference I am seeking. I am also anxious about my situation next year. It is 4 am and I have been up for 90 minutes after coming down making a milky drink and playing the third round Mahjong well ahead of the previous best score which should see me reach well above 15.

I must write about the worst film I have seen for decades perhaps ever so as to sum up this unsatisfactory 24 hours, not helped by the second England collapse in Australia or having a temporary fault in the new Sky box but which took only a few Minutes to resolve.

Step brothers is described as an American slapstick buddy comedy film. This is the story of two moronic infantile men in their thirties who continue to live with the divorced parents , one his mother and the other his father until the parents set up home together and they forced to share a room and change their established ways of life which includes not working, being slobs and generally give their respective parent a hard time. Their situation goes from bad to worse when the married brother of one arrives with his family boasting of his success and offers to sell the family home to enable his father and new wife to go round the world on their boat thus making the two men homeless. They join forces as a consequence and their behaviour eventually drives the parents to split up and the men to try and find jobs. They become successful, the respective parent geometer again accepting that the their sons are as they are. It is awful excruciating embarrassing and one wonder who will enjoy the film given that the lewd comments and lavatory humour is not suitable for children but who would enjoy nevertheless. The Film is Directed by one Adam McKay who also produced, created the story and the screenplay. Theb two brothers are played by Will Ferrell to also wrote the screenplay and devised he story, and John C Reiley who also helped with the story development. Needless to add the film was a great success at the box office making over $100 million. This beggars belief.

I can understand why contemporary version of St Trinians continued to be made. The screen is filled with scantily dressed young women pretending to be school girls, The film stars Rupert Everett as the female Headmistress Camilla Dagey Fritton, her Ancestor Archibald Fritton and the Rev Fortnum Fritton another ancestor. David Tennant of Dr Who fame plays Sir Piers Pomfrey leader of a secret society after the Treasure known as Fritton’s Gold and Colin Firth as Geoffrey Thwaites the former Minister of Education. To give and idea of the style of the piece some of the girls are Jessica the Chav, Bianca the Rude Girl, Chelsea Parker, Bella and Saffy the Posh Totties, Celia the ECO freak, Lucy the Geek, ZoĆ« the EMO, and Roxy the Rock Star.

The search for the treasures takes them to the Globe Theatre where it is found to be Shakespeare’s last plat and unknown play Queen Lear and that Shakespeare was in fact a woman who was also the Pirate Fritton. I kid you not . The film took over £7 million at the box office just over half that of the first new edition. It is very colourful boisterous and absurd. I went to sleep while watching hence the paucity of my comments.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Stage Coach remade, Bandolero and Judge Dredd

There are only a few films, Casablanca, Dr Zhivago, Lawrence of Arabia, the Wizard of Oz, the Lady Vanishes and the 39 Steps that I enjoy watching over and over again even though I remember the story and the ending from the outset. On this list are also the musicals the Moulin Rouge and Cabaret and spiritual films such as the Shoes of the Fisherman and Quo Vadis. High Noon is a highly regarded Western, together with Bad Day at Black Rock but top of my list is Stagecoach, John Ford’s 1939 first Western in sound and which introduced John Wayne to an International audience. I was therefore disappointed to find that the MGM Sky channel film was not the original but the 1986 Television remake.

I was therefore more than pleased to find that it is a good film with familiar ingredients and the Cash family in charge, Johnny playing the role of Marshal Curley Wilcox together with June and John Carter Cash. The remake is almost a faithful retelling of the original story.

The film is an account of the lives of a group of diverse travellers who commence a stage journey from a town in Arizona to a town in New Mexico during the era when Geronimo and his Apache Indians were attempting to reclaim their land from the new arrivals. There are two stops for fresh horses, food and comfort breaks on a journey which is usually undertaken within one day. The army advises the coach driver and his passengers that their has been activity, including the cutting of the telegraph and advises against departure but offers them an escort to the first stop stating that other army escorts will accompany the other stages.

When the coach driver visit the Marshal for his shotgun rider he is told that the man has been sent out with a posse to try and capture an escaped convict known as the Ringo Kid, the part played by John Wayne in the 1939 original. The convict alleges he was framed by men who killed his father and brother and it is believed he is now on this way to Lordsburg, the destination town for the stage coach, to seek revenge on the killers who live there. The marshal decides that in the circumstances he will undertake the role as shot gun rider and as they leave town two events occur which make the story.

The coach is flagged down by the bank manger who is leaving town, he says having been telegraphed to take papers to the bank at Lordsbourg, a statement which immediate attracts the interest of the Marshall and driver who have been told the telegraph line has been cut. We, the audience, know that the man has been threatened to be exposed to his family by his mistress and has decided to run off with the shipment of cash brought to the bank by the stagecoach.

The second development is that the Ringo Kid having lost his horse attempts to board the coach only to be recognised by the Marshal, arrested, disarmed and made to sit inside the coach on its floor. Also deciding to make the journey is the pregnant wife of an army office she is travelling to be with for the birth of their first child. The second woman is a bar girl being run out of town by the local women’s committee although in the remake she is the victim of a man who promised to marry her. There is a Doctor, a drunk in the original film but switched to Doc Holiday in the remake, the Dentist gunfighter, a real life individual remembered for his part in the Gun Fight at the OK Coral with Wyatt Earp in the town of Tombstone. Doc Holiday is on his way back to Tombstone and the Whisky salesman is in search of new markets. There is also a former Calvary paymaster who was saved from execution by the father of the wife on her way to join her husband. He had gambled the wages and been imprisoned where he had learnt to become a card sharp gambler making his living from town to town. He offers to protect the wife until joining her husband because her father’s support for him in the past. The remaining traveller is a specialist whisky salesman selling his wares from town to town.

When they arrive at the first stop they are provided with food and rest but are told the new army escort had been attacked and that the wife’s husband had been injured and taken their base while the rest of the troop were out on the trail of the Indians.

The existing escort is under orders to return but offers to take anyone who wishes back with them. The whisky salesman does so in both films. When they reach the second stop they find is has been attacked and partially destroyed with the relief horses run off, The wife goes into labour so they are forced to stay over night. The wife gives birth with the help of the Doc and the women of the night. She has struck up a relationship with Kid who tells her of the ranch he and his family were developing and offers a home to her as they are two of kind.

As anticipated when they set off they are attacked by the Indians and in the remake there are two differences. In the original it is the cardsharp who is killed but in the remake he survives while in the original the banker survives to be arrested on reaching Lordsbourg but in the remake he is killed,

They are rescued by the army who drive off the Indians when all appears lost and the wife with her baby finds that in charge is her husband who contrary to the previous report had only a minor injury. In the original film the Ringo Kid goes off and gets his revenge killing all three brothers involved in the family deaths and the framing of him. In the remake the Marshall together with the Doc and the Cardsharp are all involved in tackling the gangsters leading to the death of the senior brother in a fair shootout and the arrest of the other two.

There is one other difference between the films is that in the original the Kid returns to custody expecting to be returned to prison and asks the Marshall to arrange for the woman to get to his ranch to wait for his release. The Marshall allows him to go off with the woman, although still a fugitive. In the remake his innocence is established before the shoot out and therefore the couple are free to start their new life together. I thought the remake was as well acted as the original and maintained an authentic feel.

A very different kind of movie is another James Stewart and Dean Martin team up called Bandolero. Dean Martin and his gang are bank robbers who are arrested, tried and due to be hung for the murder of the manager whose widow is played by Raquel Welsh.

James Stewart plays the brother who kidnaps the hangman and arrives in town with the intention of saving his brother and which he achieves while they are on the scaffold. Unbeknown to the brother Stewart has also robbed the bank while the crowd assembles for the hanging. Raquel Welsh is taken hostage but establishes a relationship with the brother. They take her across the Mexican border into an area known to be controlled by the Bandoleros, ruthless bandits who kill without question any foreigners (gringos) they find.

They are followed across the border by the sheriff George Kennedy, (who wants the widow), his young impressionable deputy and a posse. The two manage to capture the brothers and the rest of the gang and the Sheriff makes a rebutted play for the widow.

Then the Bandoleros arrive in great numbers and the Sheriff is forced to return the guns to the fugitives in order for them all to survive. There is a great shoot out in which most on both sides are killed. Only the widow and the Sheriff and a couple of the posse survive after the leading Bandolero is killed and the others ride off. The two brothers are given unmarked stone graves so that no one will know what has taken place. The film uses the village set for John Wayne’s Alamo. The story has been recreated in the novel Lonesome Dover made into a TV miniseries and also uses the Alamo set. It is a film not to be remembered and where I failed to see the point except that the two brothers had been dealt poor hands from start to finish whereas the behaviour of the lawman and the widow both highly questionable, survive. I remain uncertain about the moral involved

Although not a Western Judge Dredd has many of the Western Characteristics. This science fiction film of a kind is based on a British comic series. It follows themes covered in several other films. Because of climate change and political and social mismanagement most of the earth has become an unliveable desert which everyone concentrated in protected Megacities. The city has many levels and between the sky scrapping buildings it is possible to travel by flying vehicles and transports. Down below is a seething melting pot where street and district gangs fight it out for domination. The very rich live well at the top. Because of the conditions and circumstances the City is run by a board and law and order is operated by the Judges. Officers who are able to arrest, try and punish, including instant imprisonment or execution according to the law.

Sylvester Stallone, who else, is Judge Dredd one of the most experience, effective and therefore feared Judges.

The films begins as a Hacker is released from the separate penal institution back in the city and finds himself assigned accommodation at the lowest level and in the midst of a local war when the Judge Intervenes. He escapes by hiding in a garbage robot but is spotted by Dredd who refuses to listen to any explanation and sentences the man back to prison for tampering with city property.

We then learn that a former Judge who became a Murderer escapes with help from prison and one of his first acts is to frame Judge Dredd for murder and despite a spirited defence by a young female officer who looks up to the Judge the evidence is overwhelming and Dredd is sentenced to death. The Judge’s Mentor and chief of the Council is played by Max Von Sydow and after the trial he successfully pleads for the life of Dredd accepting this means he resigns his post and goes outside the City to bring law to the lawless.

His role is taken over by the man who framed Dredd and arranged the escape of a major criminal, a former Judge and also the unknown the cloned brother of Dredd. In the past the Council had started a project of genetic engineering to create a perfect Judge using DNA from all of them. The flaw was the assumption that the existing Council reflected the perfect mix, as quickly became evident with the outcome of one clone becoming a psychopathic murderer and the abandonment of the project.

The plan to gain power appears to go well as the rogue Judge creates anarchy after murdering over 100 Judges and the Council misguidedly agrees to the Perfect judge clone project being completed on being told that the process has been speeded up in secret and that Perfect Judges will replace those murdered within a matter of hours. The Council is then killed after learning that it is the DNA of the rogue Judge being used to create the new officers, and in turn the new Chief Judge and instigator of the plan is himself killed by the Rogue Judge. Nothing now will stop the creation of a rogue City where criminals are in control.

This would have happened but for two developments. First Judge Dredd avoids being murdered on his was to prison sitting next to man he sent for misusing a public vehicle. They both escape when the vehicle is brought down by a cannibal family living outside the City and the two then escape with the help of Max Von Sydow who loses his life in the process.

Back in the city there is help from the young female officer with a crush on Judge Dredd and who helps identify the rogue Judge with whom they successfully engage in violent battle, despite his help from a giant robot. The new batch of clones are destroyed and the Clone making plant explodes in flames

The remaining Judges want Dredd to become the new Chief Judge be he declines saying he wants to continue working on the streets thus providing opportunity for further films. Stallone has expressed dissatisfaction with the final cut of the film admitting that it took itself too seriously although he enjoyed working on an action film with a moral framework.

The three films provided different levels of entertainment but will quickly pass from the day to day memory until trigger red in the future.

Khartoum in 3 D

I feel the tension within rising as Christmas approaches and I may have to make the decision not to travel because of the weather and problems on the roads and rail.

There is chaos in most other parts of the UK but here while it is bitterly cold it has also been sunny without falls of snow or rain which would have turned the roads into skating rinks.

I have attempted to write several letters of interest to those where this remains my only form of communication once a year. I wrestle with writing as I wish the interests of the individuals concerned.

I should clean the house but cannot raise the enthusiasm

I am continuing to rise and swim and to watch or listen to the Test match and this lunch time I enjoyed Sunderland’s home win against Bolton the Test Match. I eat too much in part the consequence of shopping for over £40 to obtain £40 of shopping for £25 followed by £30 for £25 in the New Year although together with a Petrol voucher it will only be £20. I am way behind in film reports and I shall attempt a few now commencing with a time historical drama.

I enjoyed watching the greater part of Khartoum which I have written about before, including the real General Gordon who sacrificed his life for a principle. The film is high profile topical because it features the slaughter of British troops by Muslim Zealots in the Sudan. The Prime Minister, Gladstone, is under pressure to do something and in particular to send General Gordon who knows the country and the people having broken the slave trade.

In this 1966 film Gladstone’s Foreign secretary played by Michael Hordon hits on the plan to send Gordon but without an army thus appeasing the British public but without risking more British lives fearing a fight which the nation cannot win. In addition to showing the flag Gordon’s role is to try and bring out British nationals and those who have supported the British interests. Charlton Heston plays the General and Laurence Olivier the Mahdi determined to drive the non believers from his country. At the time 1885 the Sudan was being treated as part of Egypt but had not been formally annexed. Gladstone is played by Ralph Richardson and Peter Arne as the young Major Kitchener who went on to become General and Lord Kitchener. In order to ensure a win win situation, if Gordon fails Gladstone is able to deny responsibility given the man’s reputation for disregarding orders and following his inclinations and judgements.

Gordon is given a reluctant assistant, Colonel Stewart who is to remind the basics of the mission and keep the British Government informed and he undertakes this role when on arrival the city greets Gordon as its saviour and Gordon starts to organise a defence. Gladstone is faced with a dilemma because when Gordon refuses the command to leave, the public demand the sending of a relief army and this is supported by Queen Victoria. An army is sent but told to train and make their way slowly. In the film Gordon damns the river to create a moat around the city but as the river lowers, the barrier also lowers. Gordon arranges for the Europeans to leave with his assistant but they are captured and killed by the forces of the Mahdi. With over 100000 men at his disposal Khartoum is taken and Gordon killed. The relief army arrives too late and Britain withdraws from the Sudan. The victory was shortlived because the Mahdi also died within the year and public anger was such that within the decade the Government was forced to send a new army and recapture the Sudan in 1898.

Contrast such public determination with the present attitude towards our role in Afghanistan where it is the government which is having to continuously justify our presence as one or two servicemen are reported killed each week with the number of other casualties kept confidential. A major publicity drive is being undertaken to enlist support for the injured, those who have died, for their families and for those undertaking active service. This is designed to maintain recruitment, to ensure those returning injured receive the best treatment and after care, that those killed are honoured and those fighting are given the best training, preparations and equipment, together with an undertaking that they will be within five years. There has been some progress but in general the public is more interested who wins the X factor and Strictly Come Dancing, the weather conditions and the impact of the cuts in public expenditure.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Two For The Road

Preparing for bed this evening I made the mistake of switching on the radio and listened to the commencement of a discussion between three writers about the conflict between writing about personal experiences and issues of responsibility and loyalty to friends and relations, work colleagues and other living individuals with whom one wants to continue having contact of a friendly nature.

I switched off as the discussion centred on the relationship between truth and accuracy and the expression of how one felt and the extent of licence to play with the facts to create an accurate expression of how one felt at the time as well as looking back through the layers of subsequent experience. These are all dilemmas which I have had to work through and resolved, in varying degrees over the past five years. I write this at one am having gone to sleep briefly while watching NCIS Season eight ending of a sorts on the FX channel in HD, having also slept through, fortunately a different part, on Friday when the programme was first shown. I must commence the practice of recording programmes that I am watching to ensure I can catch up subsequently.

Last week my attention was engaged by Two for the Road and interesting Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn take on the stages which most relationship between normal educated middle class couple undergo. The Stanley Donen, Directed and Produced film 1967 USA film, switches between phases rather than illustrates in a chronological order, retracing journeys travelling through France to the South, a journey which I have made twice by car, twice by motor-rail and twice by coach although in the latter instance the destination was Northern Spain. The established composer Henry Mancini ( of Moon River and Breakfast at Tiffany’s fame) created the music which all added to the prospect beforehand that the film might have some depth as well as class. I was not disappointed.

The film commences as a retrospective with Finney now an international and wealthy architect, flying his Mercedes convertible to Northern France and then travel to Saint Tropez. I have camped in Saint Tropez Bay and visited the Bridget Bardot made famous town several towns.

In order to fit the basic plot the couple undertake the long journey again by car which is unlikely given their wealth. In my instance when I had become established the visit was also by a limo with air conditioning but carried by rail from Paris to Avignon, although I believe it is now possible to continue as far south as Frejus. A feature of the film is the portray of their wealth and social position through their cars. I did have an adventurous trip across the Channel to Paris, the cap d’Agde, Carcassonne and the Atlantic Coast in a tiny Fiat which was slept in once along the motorway, once in a municipal car park and a couple of times outside full campsites but where facilities where then used as well as at campsite without previous bookings. This was an impulsive trip in search of the son also taken when I was established and had the means to have flown. In the film the couple use a different vehicle on each trip including a Triumph Herald which I also possessed when still a child care officer in Oxford, having graduated from a Morris Mini Estate which was used for a camping trip covering Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland and France in three weeks, getting as far South as Sorrento and Pompeii going over the Grossglockner Highway and was also included visits to the Rhine, the Black Forest, Salzburg, Venice, Rome and Geneva. They also have a Microbus. I converted a Ford Minibus into a motor caravan of sorts which was used for one journey to Agde and Northern Space as well as trips to Northern France, Holland and to Belgium. The couple met when they single with Finney hitching and the Audrey travelling by coach as part of a choir where her vehicle has an accident and two go off together. They have little money, have sex, and fall in love and he proposes as she is about to return home to the USA.

The second journey is shared with friends and their obnoxious allowed to do and say what she pleases daughter with her mother played by Eleanor Bron. Such ventures rarely work out and in this instance the daughter repeats what her parents have said about the couple bring their participating to an end.

I especially liked the journey with a MG where the exhaust breaks off and catches fire. My worst experience was the accident in Italy when the windscreen broke but amazing was able to be replaced over a weekend but where I then drove the car at night into a storm ditch at the camp site. However on the camping impulse trip in the Fiat I sat on and broke the brake handle. On this trip Audrey announces her pregnancy and carless they meet a wealthy business man who immediately employs Finney for architectural work and changes his life and the marital relationship for ever.
I enjoyed the moment before this when devoid of funds they stay the night at a hotel avoiding the evening meal and going without breakfast only to find that because of the season they are charged the rate of dinner B and B reminding of the occasion when attending a social function with limited end of month funds I skipped drinks, pudding, brandy etc after which the group decided to divide up the bill and therefore had to meet the costs of their indulgences without having participated. The couple also travel with their daughter and first strains in the relationship become apparent with Finney beginning to enjoy the good life and Audrey hankering for the freedom, flexibility and spontaneity of her youth. Finney on his own has a casual relationship and then, after separation, Audrey has a more serious and lasting relationship.

Early on in the relationship one comments to the other about an evidently long term marriage where the couple eat without talking to each other. Later the same comment is made by her new partner and Audrey realises she misses her husband and they return to each other. I was reminded of a similar comment made about a couple during a meal with three colleagues during a visit as a member of the Drug Advisory service. I remember commenting that part of any long term relationship was the ability to sit in silence enjoying food and being with someone with the need to talk. There is always mote than one perspective.

On the final journey they have reached the stage when they can talk about the past and their relationship with honesty and some objectivity and they cross the border into Italy on their way to Rome thus indicating the maturity of their relationship, or at least that is the concept of the film. There was nothing new for me in the film although I suspect some couple will find moments difficult. The young then and now will not accept the generality of the story.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Confederate States of America

Friday 6th of March was the day in which I prepared for the summer and went shopping for shirts. The sun was shining bright for most of the day and the chill wind had departed. My first venture was to the bank for a statement and cash and then to Wilkinson where I discovered the availability of folders with 40 pockets for 1.26 about a third of the price of others elsewhere and significantly less than the price of previous volumes at the same store. I bought ten with six black and two each of red and blue and considered a return later after my visit to Sunderland. I also bought the last six available packs of glitter at a £1 each and two greetings card

I had bought the Daily Mail, a pre birthday treat rather than walk the extra distance and back for the free paper, before going to the Ship and Royal for a bacon sandwich. Today we were provided with door stop sandwiches. I cannot recall a thicker slice of bread filled with thick cut bacon slices. It is just as well that having weighed myself and looked into a mirror before dressing the decision was taken to restrict future visits to no more than two a month until the first stone of weight had been lost.

I am not disheartened by the lack of progress so far because as occurred previously the first step is to achieve a basic improvement in mobility and with this the appetite increases because of activity and the fresh air, I eat quantatively more than less. However this was a phase which occurred last time and was followed with gradual progress as I altered both the quantity and quality of the diet and increased exercise levels. Come next Tuesday the main work begins.

I returned home via the supermarket escalator and undertook some work before setting off for Sunderland, motoring to Seaburn where I parked on the sea front just missing not one but two buses into Sunderland city centre. I was tempted to continue the journey in the car but stopped for what became a long wait, but then enjoying the journey on the bus with views over the bay and then the river. The Bay is picturesque but the river here is not. I went first to Mark’s and Spencer’s for the shirts, buying one white and one pastel yellow short sleeve for the summer and a packet of three, while pastel blue and yellow and then a more expensive shirt for this weekend with a tie to go with my dark grey pinstripe suit. At the recent funeral attended I had difficulty buttoning the shirt and going through the wardrobe when I returned, I realised that several collars were past their best.

The opportunity was taken of an offer of one pack of socks at half price with one at full and this worked out at a few pence over £1 for 14 pairs, in various grey tones to black. There was also a display rack of conventional coloured socks but all with glaringly colourful heels, only to be appreciated when not wearing shoes or house slippers. I used two Christmas voucher cards adding the balance required in cash. I then bought the last eight 40 pocket folders at Wilkinson before waiting sometime again for the bus, and as before two then came together. Having reached the parked vehicle I filled up with petrol at the supermarket garage where about every nine months I have bought sufficient petrol to qualify for a £5 shopping voucher. I have another three months to go, It was time for a cup of tea and a lattice slice of apple which was delicious. I read the Newcastle evening Chronicle which was much concerned that Newcastle Football club would avoid relegation, reminding of the succession of managerial teams, this season alone the failure to sell the club, and that the indifferent performances of players anxious to get away and the limitations of the remainder had made the team the laughing stock of the foot balling nation. That such a statement could appear in the be evening paper of the city was startling. It contrasted with the extraordinary continuing support of the public, admittedly a substantial number are prisoners having bought the three season ticket. My interest was in yet a further example of the misbehaviour and irresponsibility of the some footballers. Ashley Cole was arrested and fined for being drunk and disorder, swearing at the police after attending a night club until 2am. His wife Cheryl of the S Factor and Girl’s Aloud was away on a TV/radio charity filmed event climbing Kilimanjaro in central Africa.

For the evening meal I enjoyed two pieces of fish and the rest of the vegetables from the previous day which had accompanied two salmon fish cakes. Over the week I enjoyed a tangerine cheese cake in addition to a melon, grapes and bananas.

After further work and watching a double helping of American idol in which the final six places of the twelve were to be decided, but in a twist the thirteen became twelve which will mean a double eviction in the first week, possibly a treble. There were some surprises in those selected by the judges for the final three places, although it was not hard to understand why they made the first representative from Puerto Rico where the auditions had also been held for the first time, so as to maintain public interest and voting money at least for another week or so. Similarly some of those selected was more to do with having a balanced and wide ranging group of finalists. The cynical in me also says that they probably looked at the comparative voting strengths and had regard for the previous voting levels as an indication of the nature of the competition to come and the likely revenue.

I then watched an interesting documentary film on DVD, CSA - The Confederate States of America, based on the premises that the South had become victors in the Civil War. The programme was interspersed with adverts for Coon Chicken Restaurants in which diners entered through a large Coon face doorway, In Britain we might think that such racism was of a past centre but in fact a small chain of these restaurants existed in several states between the 1930 and 1950’s. Similarly a brand of cigarettes which had Nigger in the name also existed but was later changed to something less offensive. There were also some good twists which carried the stamp of authenticity. Matching the experiments in Nazi Germany before and during World War two in which political and racial prisoners were experimented upon much like we do animals to day in the cause of finding out more about physical development and illnesses, there were adverts inviting people to train for jobs which enabled them to become surgeons and medical assistants without all the years of study as part of the research programmes using Chattel Labour. The was also the selling of Chattels on Channel Land TV where the offer of the day was a prize specimen of Male with a prize woman worker and two of her vicinities. You could bid for each Chattel individually or for four as a group.

In terms of the documentary History made by the British Broadcasting Service, the war had been won because Britain and France had entered on the side of Confederacy in order to protect their slave owning interests in the Caribbean as well as those in Cotton. The enlightened whites surprisingly few the programme revealed who were not prepared to accept the ongoing slavery had fled to Canada where in the fifties the Cotton Curtain Wall had been created to prevent blacks and enlightened white from escaping into Canada. The USA had fought a major war involving millions of its young men in the conquest of central and south America. An army of slaves had been created with the approval of the owners on the understanding that they would be used in the front lines and the more dangerous of campaigns and the promise of freedom if they survived, but this aspect is reneged once victory is achieved. An Apartheid system is introduced through the southern continent and this result in a strong relationship with Southern Africa. There are also excellent relations established with African states in general whose leaders like the personal profit which can be made from selling their political opponents and excess population to the Confederacy.

An alliance was formed with Nazi Germany with Hitler invited to tour the Confederacy where he is encouraged to convert his proposed extermination of Jews programme into a slave labour system as in the Confederacy but with only limited success. Having previously converted the cheap Labour migrants from the east into the slave labour system, the Confederacy launches a pre-emptive strike on Japanese interests but the war did not go well until the wrecking of Japanese cities using H Bombs. There was also a successful campaign in the middle east to protecting oil supplies.

Earlier Abraham Lincoln was captured, imprisoned, and then pardoned and exiled to Canada. The payment of taxes is offset through slave purchases. In 1985 all religions other than Christianity are outlawed. Catholicism is permitted after much debate. At first the decision was to exterminate or exile all Jews but taking account of the contribution made in the Civil War, it was agreed to create a reservation on Long Island similar to that for the surviving native Americans.

However problems begin to arise at home and outside the Empire. Germany is defeated in Europe but only after there has been significantly greater loss of life, especially on the Russian front and which in effect prevents the development and expansion of communism. During the 1950’s abolitionists are successful in having an effect on educated members of the Confederacy so that by 1960 only 29% are in favour of slavery and the cause is taken up by Roman Catholic Republican John F Kennedy but because of foreign policy issues, it is not clear if he was responsible for trying to expand the Confederacy in Vietnam he is assassinated before being able to make domestic changes. A campaign by a Southern Senator and descendent of the first President swings the public mood back to Southern Protestant Biblical values with intolerance of homosexuality and tolerance of wife beating husbands as examples. However his campaign comes to an end with the allegation that in fact his family has “jungle” blood in them and he commits suicide. As the film ends there is a movement beginning to bring the vote to woman and given them similar opportunities to men for education and employment. There are signs off change as the documentary is shown in the Confederacy, hence the racist adverts, having been banned for a number of years, but no one is optimistic that real change will happen.

Wall Street 1987

Although I did not know, Princess Margaret, Vickie Hodge, Messrs Aspinall, Goldsmith, Stirling, Lucan and co, the contrast between their real lives as we, outsiders, are able to learn from writings and from film, and that of Kevin Whately and his family, yesterday’s principal subject, could not be greater, but they are only always able to learn and make judgement on partial truths. What people say of themselves, including to the confessionals, especially what they tell us in print is usually what they want other to see, feel, and think of them, and this understandable and usually there is nothing wrong with this. Life would be impossible if we question everyone and everything all the time especially those who directly share our lives at work, in leisure activities and at home with our immediate and extended families.

There are differences between those who attempt to get on with their own lives, and those of their friends and families without attempting to dictate or control the lives of others, and those who have some power or influence over the lives of others. We can understand and accept when well intentioned and appropriate decisions, choices, actions, taken in specific circumstances do not work out as well as intended, or indeed fail, but what should be our reaction when it is evident that actions were taken purely for personal profit or advantage or to cover up misdeeds, and how do we separate social action against the criminal and the unscrupulous from action which also affects their families, their employees, and in some instances, as we have seen recently, the majority of us?

This was an issue recently when over the weekend the Leader of House Commons and the person who undertakes the role of Prime Minister answering Questions at Parliamentary Question Time when the Prime Minister is unable to do so, made the comment during an interview that whatever the position of the law in relation to someone who headed a failed bank, they should not draw a pension of several hundred thousand pounds a year for life, and if they persisted in retaining this money, previously agreed with the Government as the terms of their leaving, the government would take legislation to ensure the position did not continue. In making the statement she referred to the Court of Public Opinion. Public opinion however is however not the collective response of you and me but of the owners and editors of the news media, and they often have undisclosed agenda’s and take positions without all the available information upon which to make a judgement. However this does not mean that the media does not also reflecting what the public who contact then are actually thinking and feeling, although again this is not usually a fair representation of their readers, let alone the public in general.

That is why I argue that despite its imperfections and limitations, including the ability of governments and others with power to influence and at times to control, the Rule of Law is the more important safeguard of the interest of the state and its people, than the particular form of government and its Parliament, even when the process is democratic. This is why the British Parliament is primarily, overwhelmingly, formed of those who have trained as lawyers, and this includes the Leader of the House. However this is not to be critical of Ms Harriet Harman, because she was saying what 99% of the population are saying and hoped that it was something which the government would do, even if we did not expect that this would happen and knew there were good reasons why it should not.

By coincidence one of the films sent to me and viewed yesterday was Wall Street the 1987 Oliver Stone film which I have now seen three times since its release. In the special features section of the DVD, Oliver and Michael Douglas who plays the asset stripping take over shark Gordon Gekko, admit that they have been horrified to learn than many of yesterdays traders and Hedge fund managers used to admit that the film inspired them to be someone like the character in the film.

The key moment of the film, in this respect, is when Michael addresses a share holders meeting opposed to his take over bid. He makes an impassioned speech in praise of greed. Greed is good he declares, greed will benefit you as share holders because of the price I am willing to pay for your shares and will benefit me because of the profit I will then make. Moreover if you do not sell to me you will find others queuing to take you over, but the price will be less.

The film is the story of Bud Fox, played by Charlie Sheen, who also played in the previous successful Oliver Stone movie Platoon, where I have the video. He is young Wall Street trader with drive and more ambition than is good for him. He one the traders allocated to cold call some of the big players. This reminds of when I worked for British Olivetti where I commenced work as a basic sales person calling on officers with one to five machines. Unfortunately my appointment coincided with the production of a new machine with a very soft touch which typists hated so although I obtained over fifty trials by chatting up secretary’s of office employees they did not recommend purchasing to their bosses and none were sold and the rest as they say is history when after visiting the 400 offices on my patch in the city over those first two months no one was interested over the next four and I ended spending most of my time travelling the circle line as autumn approached, or hanging around in pubs over half a pint or sitting in squares and other open spaces to pass the time. When I resigned everyone was upset because I had finished top of the sales school. Had I been successful I would have been moved into the medium office section of those possessing between 5 and 25 machines and then it the top floor team with those over 25 and where there were usually contracts to be bid for away from other suppliers. Even at my level of operation I did not have the heart for the tactics used albeit unsuccessfully given the poor functioning of the product, great design though. It was a bad machine and I was against trying to force it upon potential users who hated it, despite being able to recite the faults of the machines of our competitors. Oh I see you have a. Have you had the problem of? No. You have been lucky, for now etc.

In the film Bud has no such scruples. He has little contact with his father who has worked all his life in the maintenance of planes for a small independent airline which has suffered because of a crash and where the results are pending. Bud who has made daily phone calls trying to get an appointment with Mr Gekko calls on his birthday with a box of his favourite Havana cigars via his father, and manages to get five minutes of his time. Gekko is not impressed until Bud reveals that his father has disclosed that the investigation commission is to clear the airline of any responsibility for the accident and this will have a positive effect on the depressed shares. The success of this disclosure leads to Gekko wanting to find out how far Bud will go and sets him the task of spying on what an English rival is up to in New York, a man who has crossed swords and defeated Gekko in the past (Played by Terence Stamp. Bud is successful in finding out that his rival is interested in acquiring a steel making firm and this leads to Gekko setting about buying shares and using media connections to put up the price and which in turn forces the rival to make an even higher offer for the shares so he can complete his take over.
Having passed this test and been regarded with the favour of a former girl friend and interior designer of Gekko, Bud is signs up to a life of corrupting former friends and contacts for inside information which he then uses to buy and sells shares, in effect to himself using off shore accounts which are owned by Gekko although if things go wrong it is Bud not Gekko who has to take responsibility for the consequences of Insider Trading.

Bud is able to buy an expensive waterfront view apartment and begins to wear expensive suits and shoes which his girlfriend designs the interior, wears tailor made suits and shoes and eats at the finest restaurants. He invites his father, the union stewards and the company owners to a meting with Gekko and his lawyer who makes an offer to acquire the still struggle airline with a deal which will mean a temporary reduction in wages but the prospect of reinstatement and share owning options once the business is made profitable. Bud is to become the effective Managing Director. The firm is interested except for Bud‘s father played by his real life father Martin Sheen, and who played the president in, The West Wing, and is he second film seen in which father and son act together. As in the West Wing and several of his other roles Martin plays a man of integrity and in this film he is constantly reminding his son that a man should not be judged by what he is worth and he has nothing but distrust for Gekko and opposition to the trading and asset stripping ethic.

Bud then finds out that his father’s anxiety is more than justified when he learns of the intention to sell off planes, use available land for real estate development and raiding the pension fund once the employees have been made redundant. In his anger and guilt Bud then cooks up a scheme which he puts to Gekko’s rival in which also gains the cooperation of the firm’s owners and the trade union. The plan is to use his position to get colleagues to start buying the shares, forcing Gekko to pay an increasing higher price in his effort to gain control and then persuading his contacts to sell the shares at a profit, before launching a rumour which combined with the selling leads to market price taking a nose dive, thus enabling the rival to buy all the shares required for take over from the nominee holding controlled by Bud but at a price which with the cooperation of the existing management and workers will enable their company to survive and have a long term future. This causes Gekko to not only lose the take over bid but suffer a dramatic loss between the price paid and the price sold.

Thus Bud redeems himself after having a row with the girl friend who is not prepared to settle for anything other an ongoing money maker. He also puts the apartment on the market. This is timely because the financial watch dogs have become suspicious and arrests Bud who bursts into tears realising what is going to happen to him. There is a twist in which Bud confronts Gekko and Gekko makes an admission which is capture through a listening device in order to make the sentence for insider trading less. He has also surrendered all the remaining money he has made and gains the support and respect of his father and mother.

The film was made shortly before the great crash in the late 1980’s and that crash only helped to create the Hedge fund traders and encourage the devising of complex contracts based on volume deals with fine profits margins and potential for giant losses and to which governments and their supporting political parties headed by the USA and vied with each other to deregulate to enable vast personal fortunes to be accumulated on a scale not previously seen.

Only genuine international cooperation and national and international regulation is likely to re-establish confidence and morality in the banking system the various forms of speculation trading. I would be amazed if this was to happen.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull


In contrast to a film about the realities of political life in the US city, I watched the fourth of the films in the Indiana Jones series bringing back the team which created the first in 1981 Harrison Ford as Indiana and Karen Allen his former lover who in the latest Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, discloses her son, is in fact his child. The film is directed by Steven Spielberg with George Lucas one of three producers.

The first film cost $20 and made over $380 million with nine Oscar nominations and winning five in 1982. Two years later a prequel was released which met with mixed reviews but which also made a profit of over $350 million. There was then a gap of five years before the third film which featured Indiana as a young man as well as his current age and featured Shaun Connery as his father. The film cost twice the original at $55 but made over $400 profit and was considered to be the last, except that public pressure on Spielberg, Lucas and Ford for another continued.

It was decided to set the new film in 1950’s so that the Chronological age of Harrison in the series also matched his age in real life that is someone in their mid sixties. The setting also provided the opportunity to make the villains the Russians and make use of the idea about aliens and space ships current at the time (and since).

The enemy is headed by Cate Blanchette, a million miles away from her role in Lord of the Rings, as a villainous Stalin era fanatic wanting the ultimate brain controlling ability. The film is set in the era when the Soviets were known to have developed truth drugs and were experimenting with mind control techniques and which were used in the Korean War. There is the Michael Caine film the Ipcress File in which scientists are captured, brainwashed and rendered ineffective and the original Manchurian Candidate in which the son of a prominent political family is brainwashed while serving in the Korean War with other members of his platoon, to return with everyone saying the he is a hero saving their lives and this leads him to becoming public and political figure and leading to his attempting to assassinate the President of the United States.

The film opens is an excellent fast moving action sequence in which Indiana and his friend played by Ray Winstone as a long standing British agent are captured by a Russian military group complete with US army style vehicles and outfits and taken to a secret but poorly guarded store of secrets papers and objects in the middle of the Nevada desert. Ray has in fact sold out the information in the hope that he will be able locate an object which he recovered for the US Government and which has importance both in terms of the mind control project and locating the city of gold known as El Dorado, Winstone’s interest. When they enter vast store everything is in numbered boxes but Indiana thinks of an ingenious way to locate the boxes whose contents has intrigued him. It proves to be the remains of an being from beyond the known earth. I choose my words carefully as will be revealed later. They are looking for something which the box does not contain.

Indiana escapes but finds himself in a nuclear test site in desert where a small town has been created to see the effects of a the explosion which unfortunately is about to take place. Fortunately he closes himself in a lead covered fridge and is blown clear, manages to get out and is decontaminated, the first of several stretches of credulity in the film, which never takes itself seriously. As a consequence of his involvement albeit unwillingly Indiana is forced take a prolonged holiday from his university position and he is about to go off when he is approached by the son of his former lover and told that an old colleague has disappeared after discovering a crystal skull. He passes a letter and a document an ancient picture language and this sets them off to Peru pursued by the Russians. They find the skull but are captured by the enemy who also have captured his former lover and the young mans. Mother. The skull has powers and under its influence it tells Indiana to where to return it. Before reaching the destination there are various exciting adventures which include a drop down not one but three large water fall drops, escaping killer ants, a killer native tribe and several confrontation with the Russians. The film is full of references to other films of the period with the young playing James Dean in the Wild Ones. The film also touches on the beliefs/legends that many advances in human development were in fact passed on knowledge from superior beings. What they find is not a city of gold but the treasure of knowledge in the form beings with the power to communicate through dimensions of space and time. The film ends with Indiana and his former lover marrying in the presence of their son.

The film cost nine times the original to make and grossed nearly $800 million dollars so as before was popular at the cinema but received mixed reactions from the critics. At times what the film makers described as great fun seemed very silly, On one hand the latest technology was used creating in effect a video game in which the actors subsequently participated to provide the human face. Harrison Ford is said to have undertaken many of the stunts, to prove was an old man can do, although he admitted to keeping himself fit and that it took two weeks of intense effort to relearn to crack the bullwhip again. There were some good touches and ideal fare late on a Saturday night although it would have been more enjoyable if I had drank a bottle of Asti or several beers. John Hurt played his old colleague who they rescue and participated in the latter part of the adventure. Jim Broadbent plays the University Dean, friend and protector of Indiana when the FBI and the Un-American Activities investigators misunderstand the position. Sean Connery was invited to provide another link between the films as Indian’s father but declined offering the lame excuse that he found retirement too enjoyable.

The Last Hurrah

The last day of February ended with the feeling that I had, on a fine balance, passed the test set for each day. A good combination of project work, enjoyment and other activities. The other activities did not include a walk or much house work, but I did a number of little jobs but which did not amount to balancing the food enjoyment of the day

I considered going out for a bacon roll but decided on a brunch using the new grill plate which required assembling, lightly greasing the top plate and the eight individual under grill pans before switch on with the expected brief smoking, the cooling, then washing and drying before commencing a first trial cook. I had a medium to small portion of piece of peppered steak, accompanied by two small pieces of already cooked gammon, two eggs, one sliced tomato and one sliced onion. I started everything at the same time, prepared to eat individually as items cooked but was able to try them at the same time. The steak was cooked on the top plate and was about right with perhaps another few minutes but no more. The eggs in contrast were over done but fitted well into two of the individual small cooking plates and were easy to remove without breaking. I will try another time on the flat area of the grill plate. The tomato and the gammon together with the onion were topped off on the top plate and perhaps the onion need to go in earlier. I must try some mushroom, scrambling the eggs, some hash browns and cheese on small cuts of bread although this will be part of a sliced finger roll. I will save bacon for the bought out rolls, I nearly forgot heating up a small portion of baked beans. When in the mood I will try some thing more imaginative.

In the evening I created a bed of lettuce and cucumber pieces with some French dressing and then covered with pieces of the previously cooked and now cold mackerel mixed with prawns peeled from shell. I had not been looking forward to the cold fish having been unable to separate into two meals when removed from freezer and defrosted and cooked on the same day, but the combination worked well so that the mackerel did not overpower everything else. Staying up until three am there was a midnight soup in a cup and a finger roll filled with slices of gammon and peppered mustard. A banana, grapes and portion of Lemon Tort comprised the sweets. Another admission has to be a can of caffeine and sugar free Pepsi cola.

The film find of the day was a showing of the Spencer Tracy performance in the film the Last Hurrah, from a book written in 1956 by Edward O Connor and which was a best seller in its day. The book is believed to have been based on the former Mayor of Boston James Michael Curley. Both characters were of Irish descent with working class backgrounds.

Mayor Curley became a working class hero where he and a political associate served a short prison sentence for fraud in 1904, having served as a member of the Massachusetts state House of representatives 1902-1903 and then become an Alderman, they had sat the civil service examination to enable two men in their district to get jobs as postmen with the Federal Government. The going to prison created a dark reputation for political opponents who exploited the incident during his subsequent election campaigns.

He was elected to the US House of Representatives 1911 to 1914 and was first elected Mayor of Boston in 1914 until 1918, returning in 1922-1926, 1930-1934 and 1946-1950. In 1937 and 1940 one of his former party political friends defeated him for the Mayoral nomination, which is an indication of the love hate reputation developed for him within the party as well as those supporting the Republican Party.

The reason for this is the scandals throughout his political life, During his tenure as Governor of the State 1935-1937 the state limo was involved in several accidents, he was accused of the sale of pardons to state convicts, and the appointment of scores of poorly qualified individuals to public office. The media stories led to the Democratic leadership failing to endorse his candidacy for the Senate in 1936. However he was back in favour in 1943, elected to the United House of Representatives and serving for four years and a Member of the US House of Representatives 1943-1947. In 1943 he was convicted on a felony indictment for influence peddling from his involvement for influencing peddling to secure defence contracts, but using the slogan Curley gets things done he won his fourth term as City Mayor. He was convicted of a further offence during this last period as Mayor and continued to hold the office while he was in prison. Despite these serious failings he remained worshipped in the city and when he died he received one of its biggest funerals, two statues and his former home is now an historical site. He had nine children by his first marriage but his wife and seven of the children all died before him. One son became a Jesuit priest.

In the novel the Mayor is a colourful character with a dark past aged in his 70‘s and a widower who explains to his nephew, a journalists, the realities of political life and election campaigning as he attempts another term as the Mayor. However in a reminder of the last days of Margaret Thatcher recently viewed, his methods are no longer acceptable and he is defeated by an unknown political inexperienced Republican with a good War record, smart appearance and good manners. He has a heart attack soon after the defeat and city in mourns someone whose time was past.

The film follows closely the story of the book, I am told. The role was originally planned for Orson Wells but while away one of his team turned it down, some thing which Wells regretted and I imagine he would have played the role in a darker way than he much loved Spencer Tracy. Pat O’Brien and Basil Rathbone also featured in the John Ford Film and Jeffery Hunter played the nephew journalist. Although popular in the city, former Mayor and Governor, Curley had quickly disappeared from national interest, but the book and the film helped to soften his image although the film link with the individual and the city was denied at the time.